Warm Maine Lobster Dip

Classics: Maine Lobster Dip

There’s something about this dish that has a delightfully 1950s vibe to it; something that makes me want to put on a ruffled apron with a pair of high heels, pop a benzedrine, and wait patiently for my husband to get home to discipline the children. What is that something? It’s cream cheese. Specifically, cream cheese mixed with seafood and served hot.

I know, I know. It’s hardly haute cuisine. The first time I ordered it, at the sea-level dining room of Cook’s Lobster House on Bailey Island, it was mainly out of morbid curiosity. The term “lobster dip” on its own isn’t terrifically appealing; it doesn’t, however, sound like something that could exactly be bad. Their version is served in a bread bowl, and like most things at Cook’s, is excellent exactly one-half of the times you order it. That first batch was a winner, a combination of succulent Maine lobster, swimming in a thick cream sauce that bubbled and dripped over the edges of the crusty bread, which we tore apart and hungrily devoured.

It wasn’t until my second exposure to this dish, served to me by a dear friend I’ve had for nearly 30 years, a friend well-versed in Maine classic cooking, that the pieces began to fall into place. “Cream cheese,” he explained, absentmindedly flipping a beer cap onto the kitchen counter with a heavily tattooed hand, “It’s a huge pan of lobster and cream cheese.”

I’m ordinarily not crazy about lobster used as an ingredient, preferring to enjoy it naked and on its own. In this case, though, a 13×9 glass baking dish of the stuff, along with an entire sliced baguette, vanished in minutes, leaving the four of us standing around his Midcoast kitchen, scraping the inside of the tray with any last scraps of bread we could find.

We’ve tweaked the recipe ever so slightly, adding a tiny bit of crunch and warm background heat, while still allowing the flavor of the lobster to be the focus. The hot sauce adds a touch of light pink color and spice, but you can, by all means, leave it out. It’s a great way to stretch the meat from just a few lobsters into enough food to serve with a loaf of bread at your next swingin’ party. And if you can transfer it into a Jadeite loaf pan and get it in the range before those benzos kick in, all the better.

Warm Maine Lobster Dip

Maine Lobster Dip
Makes about 4 1/2 cups. As an appetizer, serves 4-6.

Ingredients:

  • (2) 1.5 pound live Maine lobsters
  • 16 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon horseradish
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon Sriracha or other hot sauce
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Method:

In a large stock pot, bring an inch of salted tap water to a boil. Add lobster and steam, covered, until shells are deep red, about 10 minutes. If pot boils over, leave lid off a crack to allow some steam to escape. Let cool, then crack shells and pick lobster meat, including tails, claws, and knuckles. Tear or chop lobster meat into small pieces, and set aside.

Hot Maine Lobster Dip

In a small bowl, combine cream cheese, shallots, garlic, horseradish, Worcestershire, cayenne, Sriracha, salt, and pepper. Add lobster meat, and mix well to combine. Transfer to a glass baking dish, and put in the refrigerator to chill for at least two hours.

To cook, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook, uncovered, about 25 minutes, or until lobster dip is hot and bubbly. Serve with bread, crackers, vegetables, or right off your finger.

Our “Classics” series tackles some of our favorite dishes from Maine’s rich culinary tradition. You can think of them as “traditional” dishes, or more accurately, things you might have had for hot lunch in the fourth grade, had you attended St. George Elementary. To read more from this series, click here.



There are 23 comments

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  1. Elsa

    This sounds fantastic. Oddly enough, though I’ve lived in Maine on-and-off for most of my life, I’ve never been served this by a friend, or even noticed it on a restaurant menu. What a simple, great way to stretch a lobster to serve a crowd.

    I’d be tempted to stretch it even more: pick the lobster meat ahead of time, make stock from the shells, reduce it to a thick few spoonfuls, chill it, and add it to the cream cheese mix. I hate to throw out any part of the lobster without squeezing every possible drop of flavor from it.

    • Malcolm

      I agree, Elsa! I’ve been here on and off for most of my life, too, and don’t remember coming across it until recently. Then, all of a sudden, it’s everywhere! Go figure!

      I really like the idea of working in some lobster stock. Or how about a little tomaley? Now you’re talkin’.

  2. Ruthie Houghton

    Just check Swan’s Island Hot Lobster Dip for a very close recipe… the addition of toasted almonds on top makes it even better!

    • Malcolm

      Thanks, Ruthie! I just Googled that, and found the recipe. It uses mayonnaise, though, and hot mayonnaise kind of gives me the booga-boogas.

  3. Repubblica Salentina

    Hello, I am Manuela, an Italian student in Lecce (Salento), and I am working on a project concerning the Italian style food programme. May you please tell me your email address? I’d like to invite you to a food festival we are organizing in late may 2012. Thank you very much.

    • Malcolm

      Thanks, Jesica! If you’re not lucky enough to live in a place where lobster is four bucks a pound, you can also try substituting about two and a half cups of cooked chopped shrimp.

  4. Sophie

    dang! it’s almost 4:00 and i’m huuungry…. this sounds so good. i’m so envious that you can get lobster cheap enough to warrant putting it in a dip. it’s worth it’s weight in gold here. i serve it plain with butter or never! no fair!

  5. Stephanie Heitmeier

    For some of us that are landlocked. You certainly could use a combo of shrimp, crab and lobster even langostinos if you live near a trader joes! YUM.

  6. Scott A

    I have had the dish at Cook’s and it is the best appetizer on the planet. I don’t think it costs more than $10 either, which is a rare bargain at an establishment like Cook’s. Your recipe looks thicker than they serve, I think the cheese sauce may be thinned with a white wine.

  7. Ann

    Recipe doesn’t specify whether the dip is baked IN the breadbowl or in a dish…..is the hollowed out bread added to the oven for the last “X” minutes of cooking and then the hot dip is spooned in to serve??????????

    • Malcolm Bedell

      Hi Darlene! Thanks for writing. You should bake this recipe in a dish, and then if you want to serve it in a bread-bowl, remove it from the oven a few minutes early, transfer to your bread bowl, wrap tightly in foil, and finish in the oven.


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